Walking marathon reminds those carrying the load of sacrifices made

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by JIM DOUGLAS and JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on May 27, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 2 at 4:35 PM

DALLAS -- At 4 p.m. Sunday, hundreds of people set off to carry the load for fallen military, police, and fire fighters; those who have died in service to country or community.

By 4 a.m. Monday, many were still walking a six-mile course that started at Reverchon Park in Dallas.

Some limped, or paused to tend blisters and aching joints. Some napped on cots before resuming their quest to walk for 20 hours and 13 minutes.

Participants wanted to feel the pain. Many walkers carried mementos of fallen friends -- photographs or funeral programs. A few packed backpacks with heavy loads.

"Everything altogether is a little over 105 pounds," said Nathan Merithew, a former U.S. Marine lugging a large backpack. "Maybe 110, now that I'm soaking wet."

With tape on his toes and bricks in his backpack, U.S. Army SFC Thomas Dow walked more than 33 miles. He was one of several to log more than 30 miles.

"My wife kinda, when I was packing everything, asked, 'Why are you bringing bricks?'" He said. "To make it more awful. It's Carry The Load!"

This is how they choose to inject meaning into Memorial Day.

The third-annual event began almost a month ago, as 3,000 people took turns carrying the load from West Point, New York to Dallas.

Then, for more than 20 hours at Reverchon Park on Sunday and Monday, thousands more walked a six-mile course helping Carry The Load raise money for charities that assist those who serve not just our country, but our communities.

"It's very important," said Amanda Rupley, as Lesli Russel massaged a knot out of her leg, "our husbands are both police officers and police deaths are really on the rise this year."

Each walker honored someone. Merithew bent under the 110 pounds of weight he was carrying.

"I can take it off any time," he said. "The wounded and families of the dead can never take it off."

He headed out on his fifth lap.

In its third year, Carry The Load raised just over $2 million, said co-founder Clint Bruce. More than a million of it came from Dallas. All of the money benefits five charities that help fallen police officers, firefighters and service personnel, he added.

More than 20,000 people participated.

"It feels good," said Kim Kelsall, whose Navy SEAL brother was killed in Afghanistan. "It's the greatest kind of pain, because you're doing it with so much love in your heart. You're literally just walking with your pain and through your pain. It's very cathartic."

Bruce took a break just after dawn, then loaded his wide and powerful body with a weight belt. He headed back onto the track, threading his way through a sea of American flags planted along the route.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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